My Worst Fourth of July Ever

photo by Matt Cohen

photo by Matt Cohen

That week beat me down.

by Cade Swor

I qualified for the National Finals Rodeo for the first time in 2004, when I was barely twenty-two years old. I made the NFR again in oh-five and oh-six. After that, my luck changed.

Once you’ve roped in Vegas at the NFR, you feel like you belong there. After making it three years in a row, I was, like, Man, Im supposed to be there. Whats happening? After 2006, I watched the National Rodeo Finals on TV six years in row. Each one of those Decembers hurt just as bad at the last one.

So the summer of 2013 rolls around, and I’ve got twenty-six thousand won. I’m standing fifth in the world. I think, Man, Im back!

My Fourth of July run starts at Reno. A lot of people would call me crazy for that. But Reno ends in late June and Ponoka starts soon after. Before you know it, it’s the Fourth. It all runs together.

So at Reno, I miss my first calf. I come back and miss the second one. I’m like, Dang it, this is not how I wanna get started. I go to Greeley, and it doesn’t go good. I go to Santa Fe. No good. I go to Cody, and I’m thinking, Okay, todays the day. It doesn’t go good. I miss something like seven calves in a row over the Fourth. I hit the panic button. I keep thinking, Its happening again. That’s what I keep telling myself. Its happening again.

Towards the end of the week, I go up to Saint Paul, Oregon. I draw a great first calf, but I can’t catch him. The next morning, I drive to a one-header in Molalla, twenty-five miles east of St. Paul. This is the last rodeo of the Fourth for me. I draw the calf they’re winning the rodeo on. I tell myself, If you win this rodeo, you’ll be okay.

I blow the barrier out and rope her around the eyes.

I march out to the parking lot, shatter my rope can and bury my head in my hands. I sit there for what feels like forever.

All that week, I ran good enough calves to have won twenty thousand, easy. Instead, I didn’t win a dollar. I dropped from fifth to twentieth. One week, and I got knocked out of the top fifteen. I let that Fourth of July run beat me down so much, I lost all my confidence.

At Molalla, I remember tellin’ myself, I dont know that Ill ever run another one in the Thomas and Mack. That week beat me down enough that I thought—I hate to even say it out loud—Youre just not good enough anymore.

I told myself I wasn’t going to make the Finals that year. And I didn’t.

That’s what the Fourth of July can do to you right there.

Keep up with all the action during the Fourth of July run HERE.

Follow #theCjHASE


Cade SworCade Swor